Friday, October 09, 2009

Why The Median Political Scientist Should Support The Coburn Amendment

Here is some quick background for non-political scientists in the audience. Senator Tom Coburn has proposed an amendment to eliminate the Political Science Program at the National Science Foundation. This program has, over the past decade, funded 91.3 million dollars of research on the study of elections, campaign finance reform, media coverage of war, and a host of other projects that seek to advance our understanding of politics, government, and policymaking.

Predictably, the American Political Science Association is rallying its membership to express opposition to the Coburn Amendment, through actions such as signing an online petition and writing personal letters to Senators. The median political scientist, however, may actually have nothing to lose and something to gain if the amendment succeeds and becomes law.

In my estimation, the median political scientist has never received funding from the National Science Foundation. So, in this sense, the median political scientist has nothing to lose from a research support point of view if the Political Science Program were to close its doors.

I will also wager that the median political scientist is at least occasionally called upon to review proposals that have been submitted to the National Science Foundation. Careful reviews take a non-trivial amount of effort to prepare, meaning that the median political scientist will gain back a significant chunk of time if the Political Science Program is shut down.

Put all of this together--time savings, no reduction in research support--and the self-interest of the median political scientist comes into clear focus.


PS: To quote Charlie Brown (after he "thanked" Violet for sending him a Christmas card)..."Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it?" I'm heading off next Tuesday on an NSF-funded trip to Albany.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sold!...For A Dollar Bill!

It was standing room only the other evening at the auction on Main Street in Hancock. Auction night is a real institution in this small town of 1,725 located in the thin neck of Maryland, sandwiched right between Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Folks bring their beach chairs, eat hot dogs and pieces of pie, and walk out with boxes loaded full of stuff.

Not that there is a lot of big spending going on. One of the largest ticket items we saw being sold was a porcelain doll, which started at twenty-five dollars and eventually sold for five bucks. The most common price? A single George Washington goes a long way on a Saturday night.

By way of disclaimer, none of these items made it back to Silver Spring with us...

A box jam-packed with mini-staplers (blue).

Dozens of those Livestrong style bracelets, some blue, some pink, all with a "Say No to Drugs" message imprinted on them.

A box full of Christmas decorations, including an artificial tree (presumably with all of the pieces).

Surgical gloves. Desi's hand almost went up, but at size 6 1/2, they were too small for the auctioneer's wife's hands.

Can openers. (Nice ones that went for three bucks each.)

Tools, tools, and more tools. (We saw a wrench go for a buck.)

A box full of family portraits (a family of four), picture frames, and old soccer cleats (one dollar).

Bags of cheese balls and kettle-cooked potato chips. If they had had Doritos, I would have been all over that action!

A sewing machine (one dollar).

Halloween costumes. (Look for the big, blue M&M and Nascar driver knocking on your door in a few weeks.)

A box full of white baseball pants (one dollar for the whole lot).

Next week, the announcement went out toward the end of the proceedings, there will be train memorabilia to bid on...